MAG-Net’s 2012 Annual Retreat: Sustaining a Powerful Network in our Media Justice Movement

By Betty Yu, CMJ Network Manager 

“The right to free speech means little without the means to be heard.” 

Bryan Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project (MAG-Net Anchor, Philadelphia Region)

Last week, our Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) Anchors dug their hands deep into the soil and fed the roots that keeps our Network growing, strong, effective and connected to social change and media justice movements.  MAG-Net’s national gathering brought together 13 dynamic organizational leaders from 11 U.S. regions, including Indian country at the National Labor College, in Silver Spring, Maryland for a powerful four-day Annual Retreat and meeting. 

This year’s retreat ushered in six new Anchor organizations which included Southwest Workers Union & Martinez Street Women’s Center in San Antonio, Texas; Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center in Downstate Illinois; IDEPSCA / Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California in Los Angeles, California; and Art is Change & Highlander Research and Education Center in our Southeast Region.

During each day of our retreat, our MAG-Net website featured a guest blog written by a different Anchor of the team. They shared their reflections and highlights of the day.  Each blog was also accompanied by a photo slideshow from the days’ activities.  On Day 1, we had Carol Ammons of Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center, reflect on our opening evening, which focused on community building and storytelling.  Each Anchor participant was asked to bring a personal item or artifact that inspires them to place on our Cultural Altar.  This MAG-Net meeting tradition grounded each Anchor participant in their sense of purpose and what brought them to this Network and the media justice movement.

On Day 2, guest blogger Sage Crump of Art is Change wrote about the major highlights of the day as the Anchors delved into defining our Network purpose, structure and governance body.  We heard from an esteemed panel of regional and national Network organizers from around the country that included Malachi Garza of the Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) and Laura Rivas of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), Bryan Mercer of MAG-Net Anchor Media Mobilizing Project and Elandria Williams of Central Appalachian Regional Network.   They shed light on the functions of Networks, the various decision-making structures, and models for sustainability.  The day ended with a Network assessment, where Anchors took stock of what stage of development our Network is in.

Laura Muraida of Southwest Workers Union reflected on Day 3’s themes, which were Network Strategy and Story.  The day kicked off with Anchors voting on and setting major priorities and goals for the year on areas of governance and infrastructure, strategic actions, Network purpose, and sustainability.  The last half of the day featured Spitfire Strategies who facilitated the process for the Anchors to create powerful 2-minute elevator pitches to help them best describe their organization’s work.  Spitfire Strategies also led the Anchors through a strategic communications session that helped participants chart out a campaign while identifying key messages, target audience and goals.

And finally on Day 4, the Anchors broke up into broad regions and mapped out their plans for the coming year.  Some of these proposed plans included organizing regional media justice academies, hosting regional retreats, coordinating membership drives and activities, and running local to national campaigns. Finally, the Anchors heard from a panel of foundation program officers who offered their own candid perspective on effective Networks and what it takes to sustain them. Rusita Avila of Media Literacy Project offers some thoughtful words on the last day of our retreat in her blog. Rusita writes “As we take our pieces from the altar, we return to our homes and our communities.  We take the Anchor network with us.  We have strengthened the bonds and recommitted to media justice.”

Finally, stay tuned for a report coming out of this retreat, which will be shared with the entire MAG-Net membership and allies